Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A little more about this...

...before I, you'll pardon the expression, move on.

My post from last week about the weakness of the antiwar movement, which I argued arose from being "too god damned concerned with being seen as respectable [and] serious" and the associated practice of slicing off any supposedly "radical" elements, got a little bit of attention. Avedon Carol said of the part about respectability "I think that's a lot of it." Matt at ScaryShit followed her link, decided it was "an extremely important post," and quoted a couple of paragraphs. And Armando "Big Tent Democrat" Llorens at Talk Left also took note via Avadon and quoted a bit. However, he was of a different mind:
I think Larry is right about the anti-war Netroots failing miserably in 2007 but I think he is wrong on the why it is failing. ...

Larry's critique is based on worrying about imaging. That was not the problem. The problem was deciding to NOT pressure the Democratic Congress. To instead be, led by Tom Mattzie of Move On, coopted by the Democratic Congress. I do not think the protests against the war worried anyone.
In my reply in comments I said
My concern was not about "imaging," which makes it sound like I was talking about PR, but with the sense the "leaders" of the "movement" have of their own image, which is not the same thing. In fact, I see what you call the problem - "deciding to NOT pressure the Democratic Congress" - as the result of that concern with image, not something apart from it.

That is, too many of the leading lights - such as MoveOn - felt and feel pushing for stronger measures on the war, such as the one we agreed on (don't pass an appropriation), would brand them as "too radical" and therefore as not "serious," undermining the image they've cultivated. It would cost them access - and access is, as a lot of MSM reporters will confess (once they've retired), a powerful narcotic, both soporific and addictive.

Ultimately, they have sought "respectability" in the halls of power - and have, as have so many before them, wound up entangled in the web of limitations that status weaves and so have lost the ability to speak truth to that power. That is why they have failed.

We have failed by standing by and not acting on our own apart from that failed leadership.

Related to that is that yes, demonstrations did bother some of those same forces. For a post I was writing some time ago I started to compile a list of Big Name Bloggers and other "leaders" who either dismissed, advised against, sneered at, or even attacked various demonstrations. I threw it away because I decided what I wanted to go after was an attitude, not particular individuals. Clearly, I should have kept it. It would have proved useful.
(The link to my earlier post is added here and was not in the actual reply at Talk Left. I will say here that two names on that list were Ezra Klein and Todd Gitlin.)

While this was going on another example arose indirectly illuminating what I say is the problem. Matt Stoller, another Big Name Blogger, expressed his thoughts on "Why the Progressive Movement Couldn't Stop FISA." First, he said, we need to "consider the possibility that these 57 Democrats believe in a more expansive security state and do not support civil liberties. They ... just don't agree with us. " Okay, fair enough.

But he then addressed the opposition to the bill. Why did it fail? Where was the breakdown, he wondered? Certainly not in the Netroots, oh no.
[A]s a movement, we have only one crop of politicians in office, those elected in 2006. ...

Given the age of our movement, it shouldn't be a surprise that the progressive caucus is weaker than it could be....
Right. There was never any attempt to elect "liberal" Democrats before, say, 2004 and those that were supported in 2006 who voted to kill the Fourth Amendment - such as Jim Webb - well, you can't blame them, it's just because the "movement" is, uh, young. Really young. And, therefore apparently and of course understandably, feeble. Yes, indeed. Not our fault, no siree.

So it's not fault of the Netroots that were too busy preparing for and then celebrating their supposed influence at YearlyKos to notice. And it's not the fault of the Democrats who actually voted for the thing. Nor is it the fault of the Democratic leadership which could have killed the bill in either house of Congress. Nope, all of them entirely innocent. So whose fault was it?

According to Stoller, it was the fault of the "immense and unforgivable incompetence" of the American Civil Liberties Union!

Yes, that ACLU. The one that sent out repeated announcements and action alerts. The one that, as Llorens mentioned in his own case, was the source for "anything and everything" he learned about the bill, something which I strongly suspect that, beyond the vague, often confusing and generally unhelpful last-minute press coverage, was true for most of the rest of us as well. The one that, contrary to Stoller, did push both Reid and Pelosi, but
[t]hey did not listen to us. ... We met with them. They rebuffed our arguments. ...

We gave it the full court press: with action alerts, meetings with Members of Congress and Senators and their staff.

Pelosi and friends spent the entire week negotiating with the DNI and cut out ALL the civil liberties groups - not just the ACLU.
That ACLU, that's the one on whose shoulders lies the entire blame for the failure of effective opposition in Congress to this latest egregious exercise in power-hunger. Or so Stoller tells us.

In fairness to Stoller, he did post the ACLU's emailed answer to his post. But he didn't respond to it, neither apologizing for his outburst nor making any attempt to refute the group's defense. So we are left to ponder his original assertion. And in doing so we are left with, yet again, a movement (or, to be more precise, the "leaders" of a "movement") more concerned with being "respectabile" than effective. A "movement" too afraid of making a fuss, too afraid of not being "serious," of embarrassing the oh-so-important leaders at whose tables of power they eagerly dine on crumbs. The failure must have been - must have been - someone else's fault.

And so what we got was what Llorens called "a vicious cheap shot at the ACLU," adding that
[i]t takes some nerve for a failing Netroots to go potshotting like this. Let's look in our mirrors first.
To which I could only reply "Damn effing straight."

Footnote: The graphic appears to be making the rounds, but I first came across it at The Left End of the Dial.

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